Title: Tail Spinning
Author: kaly
Category: Gen, angst, tag
Characters: Sam, Dean
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2800
Spoilers: In My Time of Dying
Summary: Between the hospital and the pyre, Sam tries to cope with everything that's happened.

Note: Thanks again to geminigrl11 for the beta! Written for the SFTCOL(AR)S Summer Santa (round three) exchange.

Disclaimer: Not mine. The pretty, snarky, angsty brothers belong to Kripke & the CW.

Tail Spinning

Sitting tucked up against a gutted junk car, Sam watched as Dean pulled yet another piece off of the Impala. He winced, as that piece of what had long been their home landed on a pile, clanking harshly. From where he was sitting, Sam could see Dean's methodical - almost robot-like - movements, but Dean couldn't see him. In the two days since they had fled the hospital with Bobby's help, staying unseen had become a priority.

Dean hadn't spoken in those two days, except when he'd had to for the sake of smuggling their dad's body out of the hospital morgue. Curt, low whispers had replaced the normal sure, almost cocky voice. Not that Sam had felt much like talking then, either. Although it had always been a possibility, given their line of work, the last thing he had dreamt of doing was stealing his father's body in the middle of the night.

And while Sam had found his voice since, if to a limited degree, Sam wasn't surprised by Dean's continued silence. As much as he wanted - needed - to talk, Dean's response to pain (and Sam couldn't imagine one worse at the moment) was to become silent.

As the grave, echoed an unwanted thought, causing Sam to shudder. The words Dean and grave had no place being in the same sentence. Especially since...

Shaking his head, as though he might chase the memories away (or at least to the corners of his mind), Sam sighed. Two days, and here he sat, hidden away and hoping for some sort of opening, knowing how unlikely that was. Though there was at least one issue that had to be dealt with, no matter how badly they both wanted to avoid it.

They had snuck into the hospital and stolen their dad's body before retreating to Bobby's, and there was only so long the... remains (Sam shuddered once more) could be avoided. The one time Sam had dared broach the subject with Dean, though - they both knew how John wanted his body to be dealt with, they had known for years - the wall in Bobby's kitchen had met with Dean's fist, a blood-smeared hole left to tell the tale.

Since then, Sam had given Dean his space, even though the emptiness he now faced slowly felt like it was devouring him. So many emotions had been trying to overwhelm him, since they had left the hospital, and he had reached out to Dean as much for his own sake as for Dean's.

Sam had accepted Dean's rebuffs however reluctantly, watching as his brother had sunk into himself and the chore of repairing the Impala. Sam recognized what Dean was trying to do - not wanting to deal. He would be lying if he said he didn't understand. Sam wished he could find something, anything, to make himself forget, too. Even if just for a little while. But he wasn't so lucky.

Movement from Dean's direction caught Sam's attention, and he looked up in time to see Dean's threadbare tee shirt follow the car parts onto the ground. It wasn't overly hot, but Sam could see where the work was taking a toll on his brother. Especially in light of the livid, healing marks that still crisscrossed his chest.

A miracle, the doctor had called it, Dean waking when almost all hope had disappeared.

Swallowing roughly, Sam's eyes traced the rough pattern, wondering how long it would be before they too faded like so many of the scars they both bore. It hadn't been a miracle, not really, but seeing the marks reminded Sam how close he had come to losing everything in that isolated shack. Funny how for all the healing, the scars remained.

Sam's chest felt tight. Far too recently he had stood by Dean's death bed, ready to beg and plead and deal, do whatever he had to do, if it only meant his family would be whole. In those moments, standing beside Dean's prone form, Sam felt more alone than he ever had during his first year at Stanford.

What was the world, really, if Dean wasn't somewhere out there in it?

Gritting his teeth, Sam blinked quickly, remembering the hope he had felt when Dean had woken. Dean was awake. He would survive. Their dad was stubborn as always, already moving about when a normal man would still be in bed. And oddly enough, even that felt normal (as much as they ever did) right up until he sent Sam away. Until the moment he walked away from his father without a good bye or even a glance back, never knowing what was going to happen. Never dreaming he wouldn't get another chance.

He had steeled himself - or pretended to, at least - to face his brother's injuries. Sam had tried to brace himself against the uncertainty of Dean waking wrong, somehow - or even not waking at all. Sam hadn't even thought to prepare himself for losing his dad. It hadn't even been a consideration until it had actually happened, and by then, it had been too late.

What ifs and might have beens had badgered him unrelentingly ever since. If he had only known... What might he have said differently? What might he have done differently? Leaning his head back against the car, Sam tried to breathe around the lump in his throat, tried to ignore the incessant burning in his eyes.

Dean was a miracle - Sam's very own, personal miracle - there was never any doubt. But his family still wasn't whole. It was broken and limping and opening his eyes, staring at the shell Dean had become, Sam was becoming afraid that it might never be made right - or even made bearable.

He wasn't sure how long he had been sitting there, covertly keeping an eye on his brother. Sam couldn't explain it, but it was like he was afraid Dean would disappear, too, if he let him out of his sight.

A glance revealed the sun to be sinking low in the sky, though Sam had little hope that Dean would stop working just because it was getting dark. Standing, Sam grimaced when what felt like all of his joints popped at the motion. Upright, he stretched his arms over his head, trying to force some measure of feeling back into them.

A long last glance at Dean, Sam decided to give him space for the time being rather than pushing again. He longed to go over and talk to him, to reassure himself that Dean was truly alive and safe and not going to leave him. But Sam knew such an overture wouldn't be welcome, and Sam had to admit, all the emotions were still a bit too fresh.

Instead, he turned toward the house, promising himself he would try to get Dean to open up in the morning. If nothing else, they had to deal with their dad... With his body, Sam silently amended, just the thought of it still catching, as if to be denied.

Sam didn't look up as he walked, instead watching the dust his shoes kicked up. He had just stepped up onto the side porch when the smell of coffee - Bobby's way of dealing with his unexpected houseguests - washed over him. Gagging, Sam jumped from the steps, landing roughly in the bushes beside them. His stomach roiled, and what little he had managed to eat at lunch was soon covering the ground (thankfully hidden by the bushes).

Sam slumped, his forearms resting on the side of the house, his head hanging between them, as he gasped for air. He could still smell it. The cloying scent of the coffee his dad had sent him for (to get him out of the way, a small voice persisted) had been haunting him.

He could only wonder when the smell of it would stop making him queasy. Hell, he wanted nothing more than to burn the jeans he had been wearing that day - jeans that were splattered with that very cup of the bitter drink.

Closing his eyes, Sam rested there for several moments, finally getting his breath under control and spitting the harsh taste out of his mouth. Absently, he kicked some of the ever-present dust over the mess, hoping no one would see. Bobby was doing them too much of a favor to bother, and Dean had his own issues to deal with. Sam was a big boy now, after all.

Forcing himself to stand up straight, Sam retraced his steps to the porch. Without really thinking about it, he took a deep breath of fresh air before ducking in the side door. He spied Bobby in the kitchen, no doubt pulling something together for dinner for the three of them. He couldn't face the older hunter now, though. Mentally apologizing, Sam bypassed the room, however, moving as quickly and silently as he could.

When he could no longer stand it, having just reached the stairs, Sam let the breath go, hoping he would be beyond the reach of the coffee's aroma. He was relieved when he found that he could smell it, but only just, and was able to fight back the gag-reflex that came automatically anymore.

Dragging his feet, feeling both immensely heavy and somehow also stretched too thin, Sam trudged up the stairs as silently as he could. The room he was sharing with Dean - not a bedroom per se but it held two cots, all the same - was the second door on the left. Reaching it, Sam sighed when he glanced at Dean's little used bed.

While Sam hadn't been sleeping well, nightmares even worse than after losing Jessica plaguing him, Dean had hardly been sleeping at all. Every time Sam started awake, he would find Dean staring at him, concern and pain swirling in haunted eyes.

And although the brief glimpse he had gotten of Dean when he had actually managed to sleep, dead to the world (no, not dead), had shaken Sam with memories of the hospital, Dean couldn't keep avoiding sleep, either. Even if Sam understood his temptation to try.

Sam kicked off his shoes, not bothering to check where they landed, and dropped onto the cot on the far side of the room. Shaken or no, Dean's habit of insisting on the bed nearest the door (between Sam and any danger) remained. He stared at the empty cot for several moments before falling sideways onto the cot, bending his legs so that they would fit.

Lying there, he could hear Bobby puttering around downstairs in the kitchen. He hoped, half-heartedly, that the older man hadn't gone too much out of his way cooking for them. Sam's appetite, what there was of it, had fled with the coffee, and Dean had barely been eating enough to keep moving constantly, no doubt hoping to keep the ghosts at bay.

Beyond that, he could hear the sound of metal hitting metal, letting him know that Dean was still firmly entrenched in the car's salvage. Not bothering to get up to change or shower, Sam let the distant sounds and the warmth of the room slowly lull him to sleep.

The next thing Sam knew, he found himself standing in a doorway. His throat felt raw from screaming for help that came too late, Dean's familiar weight was sagging against him as the doctors and nurses clustered around their dad. Words that Sam knew he would never forget echoed in his mind, heavy and ominous. Knowing the outcome didn't make it any easier, the monitors flat-lining, the doctor calling time of death. Sam knew the script.

He had been seeing it in his dreams on repeat for two days.

Suddenly, however, the scene shifted. Dean's weight disappeared, and Sam flailed out with his arms, trying to recapture it only to feel his own heart stop when he saw the bed. The bed, which had just held his father's dead body, now held Dean - stark white, chest unmoving.

"Time of death, 10:41am."

No!

Sam rushed forward, flinging nurses and doctors aside, uncaring. He reached the bed, physically pulling Dean from its grasp, shaking him and watching as his head lolled on his shoulders.

Nonono...

Clutching Dean to his chest, Sam whispered around gasping, ragged breaths, "This isn't how it's supposed to be." Sam choked on the words, pleading, "Damn it, wasn't losing Dad bad enough?"

Sam jumped when laughter rang out behind him. Turning quickly with Dean still clutched in his arms, Sam growled at the intruder. There stood a man he didn't recognize but with yellow-eyes that Sam knew he would never forget.

"Stay away," Sam muttered, placing himself between Dean and the demon. Gripping his hands into fists, Sam took a step forward, murder in his mind. "I'll kill you."

The other man laughed again, a sick glee twisting his features. "They're gone, Sammy. Both of them. It's just you and me now." As he spoke, the room disappeared; John and Dean were both left lying in the middle of a swirling, grey fog. Both bodies were waxen, eyes staring toward Sam, sightless.

Accusing.

"You done good, kid," the demon continued. "Real good. Just what I needed from you, getting rid of 'em for me. But it's time for us to go."

"No!" Sam yelled, jumping upward so suddenly he fell from the cot and onto the floor. Gasping, his fingernails scrabbled against the floorboards while his eyes sought proof it had truly only been a dream. Luckily that proof - the only proof he would accept - was lying in the other cot, stirring slowly and looking at Sam through bleary eyes.

"Sam?" Dean asked, his voice rough and broken.

Shaking his head roughly, Sam felt his stomach roll once more. Barely choking back the urge to vomit, Sam fought against the bedcovers that had also fallen to the floor, before running from the room. He barely reached the bathroom, throwing himself to the floor in front of the toilet, before the gagging returned full force, only there was nothing left to come up.

Tears burned his eyes as the dry heaves tore through his chest and abdomen. Grinding his teeth, Sam willed it to stop, to end.

It wasn't real.

Sam dug his fingers into his eyes, trying to erase the vision of both Dean and their dad lying dead on the ground. Because of him. It was always because of him. Their mom. Jessica. In some way, their dad was even gone because he hadn't been strong enough, smart enough, to stop what was happening sooner. It was too much.

The thought that Dean might be next - that Sam might lose him through his own shortcomings - sent Sam back to the toilet, abused muscles trying in vain to expel what wasn't there. He gasped, wiping roughly at the tears that continued to burn his clenched eyes.

Rocking back slowly, Sam collapsed against the wall, pulling his knees to his chest. His breath came in huge, gasping waves, fighting against the hiccups the sickness had caused. A single sob tore through him, before he bit back the sound. There wasn't time to fall apart. He had to be strong now, even if he hadn't been before.

A few moments later he heard a quiet sound over the dull roar that had filled his ears, and he looked up. Dean stood in the doorway, swaying slightly and staring at Sam with dark, concerned eyes.

"Sammy?"

Swallowing roughly, Sam shook his head. "I'm alright, Dean." The look on his brother's face told Sam exactly what Dean thought of that particular assessment.

"Sure you are."

Sam stood, pressing his hand against the wall so as to keep to his feet. He could barely stand to look at Dean, to see the pain he couldn't quite hide behind the anger. And at the same time, he couldn't look away. Dean was alive, not dead. They had lost their father, but - and Sam knew he would feel guilty forever for thinking it - he still had Dean. And somehow, someway they would cope because they were together, even if their dad was gone.

"You should go back to sleep, Dean," Sam said, several moments later.

Dean looked at him, his eyes haunted, and nodded. "So should you," he whispered. Staring at Sam for another long moment, he asked, "You sure you're okay?"

Shoving his hands in his pockets, Sam remembered the nightmare and couldn't bring himself to outright lie. Instead, he shrugged and said, "Someday."

Dean looked surprised at the honestly, but merely nodded. Sam hoped he wasn't lying, that they would both be okay - someday. He had to hope it was true, even if he had begun to fear it wasn't (at least not for him). But he had to try. For both of their sakes.

fin